- The Kindness of Strangersby xk
The Kindness of Strangers
November 22, 2021
I often experience the kindness of spring strangers in extraordinary ways. But two unrelated recent events put me a contact with people who extended themselves beyond the call of friendliness. Their kind acts prompted me to contact them afterward and let them know how much I appreciated them.
The events made me wonder something. Were the people affected by recent protests that encourage allyship and more conscious acts of kindness towards African Americans? Or were they simply great Samaritans in their own right. Both were at play in both instances.
My wife says people are kind to me because of my personality and countenance, which may have some truth. I believe people are good and expect goodness from them. When I look at myself, I don’t see anyone different from other Ordinary Joes walking down the street.
In one instance, two young guys rescued me after I overturned a boat in deep water. The accident occurred after I jerked my outboard motor tiller causing the boat to flip. I wore my life jacket and sustained no injuries. My vessel received minor damage and I lost some gear.
The two young guys came and conveyed my boat back to the dock, and, treated me like I was their best friend. They could have done the minimum or ignored me altogether and left me out in the water. After bringing me aboard their boat and back to shore, they retrieved all my gear they could find. They put the boat back together. They also performed other acts of kindness that I expected to do myself.
Their respect towards me, as a Black man, was simply the best. I imagine some of their kindness resulted from their families’ teachings or their military bearing since we were on a military base. They could have been influenced by recent events raising awareness about the plight of African American men.
I simply don’t know. I was overwhelmed by the two men. So I called them to express my appreciation a couple of days after the event took place.
In another instance, my wife and I met an older gentleman, probably in his 70s, who was with his four-year-old grandson. We hit it off upon meeting each other as we were preparing our boats for launch in the bay. The conversations were so friendly and warm the gentleman gave me some gear for trip, and later, following his fishing expedition, gave me some of his catch. Not only did it give me some fish, he gave me the largest of his catch, which was a beautiful, trophy-sized Red Drum.
I thought of him as a generous spirit who displayed a super kind act far beyond everyday experience. We got to know each other better after connecting several times.
It makes me wonder why there is so much distress for other Black men going about their lives in a non-drama fashion. Are the people who cause harm under duress or driven by unconscious bias and aggression? Where is their wiring that endears them towards kindness?
I don’t believe I deserve any better treatment than the next guy. In fact, my close friends, most of whom are African American, enjoy the same freedoms and kindness of strangers as others.
There is enough White on White crime in this country, particularly, to tell me that most crime happens regardless race. The recent trial of Kyle Rittenhouse provides a perfect example White on White violence, which resulted in two deaths and five felony charges against Rittenhouse. Last week, Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all charges, which is my opinion, what’s the fair verdict resulting from a fair trial. The point I’m making here is that the trial was prompted by acts by a White person against other White people.
Still, the use of force by law enforcement officers against Black men far exceeds the use of force against Whites. The Center for Policing Equity reports the mean rate for Black residents was 273 per 100,000. That is 2.5 times as high as the overall rate and 3.6 times as high as the rate for White residents (76 per 100,000). That represents a significant disparity.
Is a correlation between use of force and use of kindness possible?
I wonder why (or whether) most kindness doesn’t extend itself as I experience it? If it did, it seems human beings can disrupt prejudice, reduce bias in the world, and offer one another equal respect, without regard to skin color and origin.
At this stage of my life, most of my daily human contact is with kind White people. That is a product of living in Las Cruces, New Mexico, a city with about three percent African Americans. I also pastor a 96% White Unitarian Universalist church.
On this Thanksgiving week, I plan to reach out to my friends I met who were so generous and helped me and showed kindness for the sake of being kind. I want to let them know how much I appreciate them as human beings. Their kindness affected my life and boosted my spirits and confidence in human relationships, especially between African Americans and Whites.
- Calling UUs Preparing to Reopenby xk
Calling UUs Preparing to Reopen
Calling UUs Preparing to Reopen. This post is for my fellow UUs as they prepare to reopen. Please don’t forget to include BIPOC UUs in your preparations. This is essential if you are going to “keep it 100” and jumpstart your allyship.
I’m calling you to be intentional and invite a representative number of BIPOCs into your deliberations and ask for their perspectives. If your congregation is like mine, you already have BIPOCs on your staff. Indeed, you must have BIPOC members whom you can consult about your reopening protocols.
If I were you, I’d ask those BIPOC staff and members for their viewpoints on what needs to happen for them to feel welcomed when you resume in-person worship and church activities. They will have points of view that may differ from the white staff and membership. What a gift this is for you!
Less than 100 responses
You may respond, “The BIPOCs in my congregation are not on staff, and we only have a handful that attend services. I don’t believe they are interested in this.” Some might respond, “We’ve already figured it out and have a game plan. It is not possible to change the plan. I hope not. Others may say, “We don’t have any BIPOCs on staff nor the membership.” This is totally not aligned with the UU vision for beloved community or our UU Principles and values.
The reopening of UU spaces during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic is the perfect time to reset your priorities and make sure you are keeping it 100 with your BIPOC constituency. In fact, the pandemic has given us all an extended period to rethink and strategize how we welcome all people. Eighteen months is a true gift of time.
But given the report, Widening the Circle of Concern, UU clergy and church staffs have had sufficient time and data to support making how we welcome BIPOCs a special priority. I’m assuming UU clergy have ALL read the report by now. That is, unless you are a Gadfly.
If you haven’t read the report, it’s time. I’ll go further. You’re out of covenant with UUA leadership, colleagues, and congregations if you haven’t read it.
UU Church of Las Cruces is keeping it 100!
Here at UU Church of Las Cruces, the board is reading and studying the report. All members have access to the full report.
If that is your situation, please read the Commission on Appraisal’s most recent report on covenant. It is titled Unlocking the Power of Covenant. Most likely, it sits on your office desk, awaiting you to retrieve it. Get ‘er done!
Now, back to the reopening. Undoubtedly, safety is your highest priority. You’ve got to get the best minds affixed on reopening safely. No doubt, you must exercise due diligence not to encourage viral spread. That, too, deserves BIPOC input.
Again, now is the time to sharpen your skills on keeping it 100.
Definition of “Keeping it 100!”
In case you do NOT know what I mean by “keeping it 100,” here is an excerpt from my blockbuster book, The Black UU Survival Guide:
“Keeping it 100” is another way of saying keeping it real or “honoring your own experiences and feelings. Keeping it 100 invites you to be honest by prioritizing your truth. Each of us needs to separate our own truth from our parents, spouses/partners, friends, communities, and culture. As related to being an ally, it means choosing to act in alignment with your express desires.
For example, if you believe there needs to be more equity and inclusion among White and BIPOC UUs, you’ll need to act in ways that make such equity and inclusion a reality. Your new way of being may include sacrifices you hadn’t previously considered. You may need to give up some of your privilege, preferences, and power so that BIPOC UU can exert more of their own, instead. Be prepared to abandon, or revise, the “truths” you learned about earlier in life about BIPOCs that led to contemporary disparities in UU culture.
It also means taking responsibility for your lack of understanding about race, racism, and the lives of BIPOCs. Be open and curious about how you developed the perspectives you have. What experiences do you draw upon when forming your views and ways of relating to and understanding BIPOCS.
For those who are already back to in-person worship and community gathering, keep it 100!
For those getting ready, keep it 100!
For those who are already keeping it 100, right on, Ashe, and blessed be.
 The Black UU Survival Guide: How to Survive as a Black Unitarian Universalist and How Allies Can Keep it 100, 2021, 12.
- How to Convince Your Friend to Get the Vaccineby xk
How to Convince Your Friend to Get the Vaccine
How to Convince Your Friend to Get the Vaccine. Do you have friends that have not gotten the coronavirus vaccine, yet? If the answer is yes, they need your help to find a way to get the vaccine. As a good friend, use your influence to persuade them to do the right thing.
Is important to help friends who have not gotten a vaccine make an appointment to go. Some people need prompting to help them find a solution to their problems. If a person has not got the vaccine, they are at risk of catching coronavirus, or COVID-19, and they have a problem.
Here are a few easy steps to help you help your friend and family members who still need the coronavirus vaccine.
1 Ask your friend who hasn’t gotten the vaccine to explain the reasons they haven’t. Chances are that your friend may not believe they need the vaccine. They may believe is fake news that coronavirus exist. Ask them to explain the reasons they have not gone to get the vaccine, yet.
Be prepared for them to say they don’t want to tell you. But don’t let this discourage you because you need to understand it as a friend.
2 Listen carefully without interrupting. This is called active listening. It is a powerful way to build a good relationship and allow your friend to be heard. As they are talking, do not interrupt them. Even if they’re droning on, keep listening without but again.
2a If they talk without further prompting, continue to nod your head signaling you’re listening. As they talk, not your head, lean in toward them, smile and look interested. These may sound like fake ways to act, but it works.
2b If they answer, “Because I don’t want to” or something like that, ask, “How come?” The point to keep in mind here is that you need them to talk honestly. However, you don’t want them to become defensive and angry at you for trying to help them do something good for themselves and your community. So keep asking, “how come,” until you began getting good answers; real answers.
2c Keep asking “How come” until they talk. Keep repeating this phrase. Do it with curiosity, not pressure. For example, you might say, “I’m really interested in you and I care about the choices you are making.”
2d Do not ask, “Why?” because that makes people defensive. when you ask, “why?” people become upset and believe that you are attacking their reasons for acting as they do. You want to avoid this at all costs. There are more ways to ask “why” if you are imaginative.
3 Begin repeating back what you heard. This is the easy step. Be persistent, but not pushy.
3a Make sure you hear “That’s right” from them. Keep trying to repeat until you hear it. A good way to know that you’re on the right track is when a person responds with something affirmative, such as, “That’s right!” When you hear that, you know that you are on the right track in that would you repeated is accurate. You should be proud of yourself for getting it right. Keep doing what you are doing and the person will continue talking because they like being heard.
4 Explain to them that you care about their health and want them to be safe. It’s always good to let people know the reason that you’re concerned about them. Sometimes, that helps them feel safe around you and trust that you have good intentions. Be genuine when you express your concern.
Offer to Go With Them
5 Offer to go with them to get the vaccine. Often, people are acting based on fear. They are afraid to do something that they are totally unaware of or unfamiliar with. In today’s climate, many people feel pressure because they belong to a certain group and want to act the way their group tells them to act. They may be trying to live up to a certain set of expectations, even though those expectations go against their true beliefs.
By offering to go with them, you are helping them to overcome the fear acting as a Lone Ranger. People feel better when they have someone that agrees with them to go along with them.
5a Offer to help them make an appointment. The first step in getting a coronavirus vaccine is to make an appointment at a local clinic, Walmart clinic, Walgreens pharmacy, or other approved health care place. People need to register to make the appointment. Be willing to help your friend or family member do that.
5b Find out when they plan to go for accountability. You need to hold them accountable, that is, make sure they keep their word. The best way to do that is to find out if they have a plan or schedule to go get the vaccine. If they don’t, encourage them to decide and make an appointment.
6 Be prepared to go. In the event they asked you to go with them, be ready to go at the time convenient for them, not you. Make it easy for them to keep their appointment. This is important for folks to know How to Convince Your Friend to Get the Vaccine.
Follow-Up with Your Person
7 After the appointment, follow-up to make sure they are feeling well. The vaccine has known side effects that take place today after the vaccine is received. You want to check on your friend or family to make sure they’re feeling OK. It helps to remind them that the symptoms are coming and are predictable, so they won’t be surprised. Encourage them to get rest the day after the vaccine; Not to schedule any important work or meetings or other appointments.
7a Find out when the 2nd shot appointment is, if there is one. Some vaccines require two shots, so you need to make sure your friend or family member has an appointment for round two. If they have the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, they only need one shot and they are done.
8 Repeat steps 5—7 Remember, the issue here is: How to Convince Your Friend to Get the Vaccine.
Give yourself a pat on the back for doing such a great job and looking out for your friend and family member. Repeat this step as often as you need to make sure everyone in your friendship circle is vaccinated.
Right now, the people who are getting sick or those without vaccines. Try not to let your friends talk you out of helping them. Be strong willed and confident that you are doing the right thing for your friends, family, and your community.
- Centering Revisitedby xk
Centering Revisited offers an update to the book, Centering: Navigating Race, Authenticity, and Power in Ministry, edited by Rev. Mitra Rahnema. This video comes from the Centering Revisited webinar/workshop at UUA General Assembly 2021.
The 2017-18 UUA Common Read
In October 2015, a group of distinguished UU religious professionals of color gathered together in Chicago to embark on a radical project. The conference was sponsored by the UUMA’s Committee on Antiracism, Anti-oppression, and Multiculturalism. It started with the premise that discussions of race in Unitarian Universalism have too often presupposed a White audience and prioritized the needs, education, and emotions of the White majority. The goal was to reframe Unitarian Universalist anti-oppression work by putting the voices, experiences and learnings of people of color at the center of the conversation. The resulting book, Centering, captures the papers that were presented and the rich dialogue from the conference to share personal stories and address the challenges that religious leaders of color face in exercising power, agency, and authority in a culturally White denomination. Centering explores how racial identity is made both visible and invisible in Unitarian Universalist ministries.
For the free online study guide click here.
- Fat Liberation and UUby xk
Fat Liberation and UU
Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum, Rev. Molly Brewer, Rev. Julie Brock
Fat UU Clergy Against Sizeism Caucus Group
Taking Up Space: Fat Liberation and UU examines the following: Fat bodies are often viewed as bad bodies, even in UU spaces. A group of UU clergy will present a theological context that lifts up the worth and dignity of every body, of every size. Through facts, stories, and examples, we will equip congregations to question and transform fatphobia culture.
Sizeism (from https://www.definitions.net/definition/sizeism)
Size discrimination or sizeism is a form of discrimination based upon a person’s physical size, including but not limited to height and/or weight. Sizeism usually refers to extremes in physical size, as in an extremely tall person or an extremely skinny person. This can also be applied to discrimination against the fat and/or obese.
Definition of sizeism (from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sizeism)
: discrimination or prejudice directed against people because of their size and especially because of their weight … this is one way to dismantle the power difference society’s privileges grant us through such institutions as racism or classism or ageism or sizeism.
— Sarah Lucia Hoagland
… Hollywood horror stories about sizeism abound. Carrie Fisher said in 2015 that she had been pressured to lose 35 pounds before appearing in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
— Brooks Barnes
Sizeism is aligned with the social construction of the ideal or “normal” body shape and size and how that shapes our environment. In the U.S. we can observe many public facilities shaped by this “normative” body including; telephone booths, drinking fountains, bleachers, bathroom outlets (sinks, toilets, stalls), chairs, tables, turnstiles, elevators, staircases, vending machines, doorways…to name a few. Design assumptions are drawn about the size and shape of the users (height, weight, proportionate length of arms and legs, width of hips and shoulders).
Body-shaming, more specifically weight-shaming of men and women, is a widely known characteristic of sizeism, shown in the form of prejudice and discrimination can include both skinny shaming and fat shaming.
- Covid-19 Vaccine, Privilege, and Anxietyby xk
Covid-19 Vaccine, Privilege, and Anxiety
I see the Covid-19 vaccine as a privilege issue that is causing undue anxiety all around us.
There is a 1961 Twilight Zone episode titled “The Shelter.” The show depicts a group of neighbors, including a doctor who provided care to all the others, attending a birthday party at the doctor’s house. When a big voice reports an imminent nuclear attack, the friends turn on the doctor and his family. Everyone panicked.
Friendships between the doctor’s family and the neighbors evaporated fast. The Covid-19 vaccine, privilege, and resulting anxiety is real.
As the Covid-19 vaccine gets rolled out, I feel like something is awry. Did we hear a big voice speak and forget “we’re all in this together”? There’s a race to get the vaccine before anyone else. Did we forget we recently put others ahead of ourselves?
It will take time, but everyone is getting a Covid-19 vaccination. President Biden is doing all he can to assure Americans the shot is coming to an arm near them. Unlike previous pandemics, it’s not so simple as standing in line and being administered a sugar cube.
There’s a pecking order this time. Many of us must wait longer than others. Even in single households, some get the shot sooner than others.
Whether you get the shot eventually, it’s nothing to be proud of. It’s not a reward. As a minister, I say it’s a moment of grace, something unearned.
Unlike the Twilight Zone, there is no inescapable nuclear attack coming. People can stay at home, wear a mask when in public, wash their hands often, and limit exposure when around people outside their household.
I don’t mean to minimize the risks and deaths associated with the pandemic. Death is real. Being on a vent is real. So is watching a loved one pass away while separated by an ICU window.
There is a social justice aspect to vaccines. People of color haven’t been vaccinations in an equal ratio to White people. Many countries have yet to receive vaccines in significant numbers. The rollout needs more equity built into the process.
Many are at the bottom of the pecking order. They don’t have internet access to register. Some lack transportation to vaccination stations. Others live in communities where people consider the vaccine harmful. It’s reminds us of past episodes of public health gone wrong in America. They’re the most likely to contract the illness and dying.
Should we remind ourselves that just a few months ago our mantra was “We’ll get through this together”? Can we look beyond our personal needs, relax, and take confidence in President Biden’s pledge that all Americans will get the vaccine by late summer?
Evidence supports the president’s agenda. The biotechnology researcher Matthew Harrison of Morgan Stanley reports that 70% of shots distributed get into arms. That is up from 20% shortly after they released the vaccine. Secondly, “the supply of vaccines in the US has pretty much been on target with what the manufacturers were estimating.”
And finally, the vaccine is effective enough that “it prevents severe disease, it still prevents possible hospitalizations, and vaccines are still working against [known] variants.” This data ought to calm people down.
In “The Shelter,” the doctor’s family had built a fallout shelter in their basement. It was only big enough to hold three people, however. Because the neighbors couldn’t fit into the shelter, they broke down the door and forced their way in, destroying a part of the doctor’s home.
The best way to reduce fear is to challenge your thought process. , or at the very least controlling it, is to challenge your way of thinking. Pam Custers, a licensed therapist, says “It’s a balance between challenging thought processes and having healthy caution.”
Let’s be cautious and not force our way into the lines of vaccination stations. We may have to wait, but the shot is coming to an arm near you.
There’s a big voice out there speaking to us. It’s urging us to be calm. Keep calm; you’ll be vaccinated, eventually. In the meantime, be safe.
 Thoughts On The Market, “Covid-19: Variants, Vaccines, and the Road Ahead,” Morgan Stanley, February 11, 2021 podcast.
Natasha Hinde, “Coronavirus Anxiety Is Real – 7 Tips From Therapists On How To Cope,” Huffington Post, February 27, 2020, https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/coronavirus-anxiety-how-to-cope_uk_5e395713c5b687dacc72dea8.
- Rabbi Larry Karolby admin
- Pastor Jared Carsonby admin
Take On Faith – November 17, 2020 KTAL-LP 101.5 FM
Pastor Jared Carson, Minister of Peace Lutheran Church of Las Cruces, is today’s guest. The Rev. Carolyn Wilkins serves as the guest host for today’s program. Rev. Carson discusses his own spiritual path and the charitable work of Peace Lutheran Church’s congregation. The conversation delves into the issues facing the Las Cruces community and the efforts interfaith communities can make to create positive change.
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